How to create an eye-catching succulent garden
I am sure many of you are unaware that we are still experiencing a drought in South Africa, we have received some substantial rainfall over the last two months but this does not mean that the water restrictions cease to exist. Just driving around our beautiful countryside you will notice how badly many people have been affected by the real shortage of rainfall. In an effort to have a beautiful outdoor space while still being water-wise, this article will teach you how to create a succulent garden.
I often get asked what my favourite flower is; yes I do love roses and day lilies as I am sure many of you do too, but my favourite flower species is definitely the aloe species. Aloe flowers come in a multitude of colours from deep purple to reds, oranges and yellows and if lucky enough you can even get green and white flowers. I love them because they provide colour in the winter months, they also provide nectar for bees, birds and butterflies.
I started my aloe and succulent collection 15 years ago, the great thing about succulents is that you often do not require roots or rooting hormone to get them to grow. My collection started with taking cuttings from the gardens of family and friends.
Succulents and aloes are exceptionally hardy plants they require very little maintenance and almost no water; when I say no water I mean literally watering them once every 2-3 months. Can you imagine how much water you would save if you planted these specific gardens in those really dry areas of your gardens and on your pavement?
Remember: There are aloes and succulents that prefer shade. You need to do research on how big the plants get, what soils they prefer are they poisonous are they invasive plant species and should not be split and propagated. There are many things that you have to take into consideration when planning your garden
I have had an area around my swimming pool which remained dry even after all the rain we had, it was frustrating planting indigenous plant species and putting compost and topsoil and even they struggled combined with the drought we’ve had and we could forget about anything surviving.
So what we did was remove all the existing plants, removed a couple of trees and shrubs. The section around the pool receives about 7.5 hours of sunlight in summer, in the winter months this drops down to about 4.5 hours of sunlight. For your aloes and succulents to grow to their optimum, I would say that they should receive more than 3 hours of direct sunlight a day.
Now the fun begins: The design process
I used aloe bainsii and aloe marlothii as my structural and focal points in my design around my pool garden. Aloes such as aloe arboresens which grow very bushy and wide I used those at the back and sides to hide my walls. What I love about the aloe arborescens is that it has a silvery olive green leaf throughout the year and a bright orange flower in autumn. You now get some beautiful yellow varieties too.
The medium sized succulents that we used were portulacaria afra, euphorbia tirucali, and the aloes which we also used were aloe cryptopoda, cilliarus, striata, striatula aloe castenaea, the smaller varieties which we used closer to the edge of the pool are aloe hedgehog, aloe peri-peri.
Now that you have your structural plants in place, from tallest at the back to the lowest in the front what about those gaps in between? I use succulents such as delosperma, vagie and echevaria to fill in the gaps. I love a small little blue daisy called a felicia amelloides which I plant in the extra gaps from the middle to the front, this little blue daisy is exceptionally hardy and flowers virtually throughout the year.
The great thing about creating succulent gardens is that they can be as small as a tin to many acres in size. If you are as much of an aloe enthusiast and succulent collector as I am, please send us a few stories about your garden and even pictures to share.
Who is Nicholas Spargo?
Nicholas Spargo, owner of Spargo Landscape Consultants, has been in the landscape trade for 12 years as well as being a lecturer at the Lifestyle Garden Design Centre for the past year. He was awarded a Gold for a design at the Lifestyle Garden Design Centre Design Show in 2008, is an Invasive Species Consultant and is affiliated with the South African Green Industries Council.
Landscaping and education are very close to his heart